Director Duncan Jones‘ latest science fiction has the classic cyberpunk look of Blade Runner but none of its mystery or compelling characters. While watching Mute, it appears Jones got more wrapped up in the glistening lights and flying cars than focusing on a cohesive story. The film plays out like a crime noir with a cast of despicable characters you don’t care about. For all of Alexander Skarsgard‘s charm, there just isn’t much for him to do here with his mute character Leo.
The film begins with a flashback. A young Amish boy named Leo is floating in the lake lifeless and bleeding. The result of a boating accident that damages his throat. When the doctors urge his mother to allow them to operate, she refuses over religious beliefs. Leo becomes mute from the ordeal.
Fast forward to a couple of years later. Leo, now a grown man lives in the futuristic Berlin. Consumed in a sea of hustle and bustle, future Berlin is cluttered with flying cars, drones, and neon light. Leo lives a quiet simple life in a meek little apartment. He swims for fun in the community pool and tests his ability to hold his breath. By night he is a bartender at a local bar. Leo is madly in love with her blue-haired muse, Naadirah.
Naadirah gives Leo an antique cell phone so he can keep a memory of them together on the cell phone’s camera. Naadirah is sweet but mysterious. She holds onto a deep dark secret she doesn’t think Leo would be able to handle if he found out. While serving drinks at the club, Naadirah is harassed by some drunkards and this pushes Leo into full-on rage mode. Naadirah calms Leo but his incident does not go unnoticed and he is put on notice by his boss.
Later that night back at Leo’s apartment, he hears something outside his front door. When he opens the door he sees a sobbing Naadiarh coddled on the floor. Naadirah is scared to death of the secret she has hidden from Leo for so long. Leo comforts her by writing in his small notebook, that house his many drawings, that whatever it is, it doesn’t matter. He invites her in and has Naadirah use his shower. Leo reveals a secret to Naadirah that he had been hiding from her. Leo leads Naadirah outside of the apartment building to a locked shed. When Leo opens it, he reveals his hidden wood carpentry workspace. Finely detailed and ornate carvings of furniture featuring intricate designs and various animals. Naadirah is astonished. The two share an intimate romantic night, but the next morning Leo wakes up to a lonely bed.
The film starts to go in various weird and unnecessary directions from this point on. Leo goes on a noirish journey through Berlin trying to find out what happened to Naadirah. Ultimately he discovers her deep dark secret. The film fails as a whole mainly because with each new flamboyant or shady character they introduce next they just aren’t compelling in any way. Paul Rudd‘s Cactus is the most likable character of the film until you find out he murdered Naadirah and stole their daughter.
When the hero of the movie is, for the most part, an emotionless mute surrounded by low life characters its hard to relate or even cheer for any of them. Mute is the slowest of slow burns. The story meanders back and forth between despicable characters and Leo wandering around the city looking for clues about Naadirah’s disappearance. Its a waste of talented actors who are given poor dialogue to maneuver through. I suppose I should have muted my expectations.
HipZOMJoint give’s MUTE, a weak 5 out of 10.